Today was the Constitution test. It’s the big one. The kids have been pretty freaked out about it because they have to pass it in order to pass eighth grade. It’s the first time they are experiencing a test that carries such a heavy consequence. Ah, the world of high stakes testing begins, the student’s confrontation with their first gatekeeper to “success” and “opportunity.”
Earlier in the year, at our first essay test on Haroun and the Sea of Stories, I brought in lemon oil and explained that I had read an article about how in Japan, many factories put lemon aroma through their ventilation systems because it seemed to help workers be more focused, more efficient, sharper, more alert. I shared that I didn’t know if it were true or not but if anyone wanted to try it out, I would put some of the lemon oil on their wrists to see if it helped them do better. Everyone volunteered and though no one has confirmed any direct causality, lemon oil during tests has become de rigeur (for math and science tests too because the kids will come in before them to get a “wrist shot”).
As we sat down this morning for the test, ST opened a zip lock bag which had a whole fresh lemon and a knife inside. While kids were gathering in their seats, she carefully cut the lemon into many pieces. Bunches of the other students were vying for a piece before the test. It was rather amusing watching the students as they took the test, playing with wedges in their non-writing hand, occasionally bringing it up to their nose, while thinking, puzzling through the test. (I think I am going to adopt ST’s idea- much cheaper than the oil I buy.) However, many students wanted the oil as well. No fear of double jeopardy here.
After about a half an hour into the test, a student asked if there were a sharpener he could use. I hate the disruptive sound of electric sharpeners so there are just the small plastic manual ones around the room. I reached over and grabbed MH’s with a nod that said, Can I borrow this? He looked at me and said, “Is this an act of eminent domain?”
About ten minutes later, LK raised his hand. “I think you ought to carefully read over the eighth amendment,” he whispered with his eyebrows raised and his forehead furrowed. It took a minute for his words to sink in. (Yes, it’s the amendment about no cruel and unusual punishment.)
I walked around the room looking at the students working away. JM had written beneath two questions she did not have answers for, “I plead the fifth.”
At the end of the test, as AD gazed across the detritus of lemon left on the desks, he said, “I guess this was quite the lemon test!” (The Lemon Test is used by the Supreme Court to determine violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.)
You know? I really think they got it.